News / Economy

Wealthiest Americans Earn Biggest Income Share Since 1920s

U.S. dollar bills
U.S. dollar bills
VOA News
The richest 1 percent of Americans last year earned their highest share of the nation's household income in more than eight decades.

The last time that group took in more than 19 percent of overall earnings was in 1928, just one year before the stock market crash that helped trigger the Great Depression.

Meanwhile, the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans earned nearly half (more than 48 percent) of the nation's household income in 2012, their highest share since 1917 when the record-keeping began.

The news comes from an independent analysis of Internal Revenue Service figures. Emmanuel Saez of the University of California, Berkeley is one of the economists who looked at the data. He says the incomes of the wealthiest Americans surged last year, in part because they cashed in stock holdings to avoid the higher capital gains taxes that took effect this past January.

The figures highlighted by the analysis show U.S. income inequality has been rising for nearly 30 years.

From 2009 to 2012 - the initial years of recovery from the 2008-2009 recession - Saez says the top 1 percent of Americans captured 95 percent of the nation's income gains.

In 2012, for example, the incomes of the top 1 percent rose nearly 20 percent compared to a not even 1 percent increase for the remaining 99 percent.

The anti-corporate Occupy Wall Street movement singled out the wealthiest 1 percent in protests beginning in 2011. The group said it represented the “99 percent” - the people outside the top 1 percent of wealth holders.

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